Every person who has seen Law & Order, CSI, etc., has seen a police officer administer the Miranda rights to an alleged offender. However, these TV shows facilitate a common misunderstanding regarding criminal law – if the police do not administer Miranda warnings, the case against the alleged offender must be dismissed. This is not the case.
Before we discuss Miranda rights any further, let’s first understand the holding of Miranda v. Arizona, the case which produced your Miranda rights. The case held that “when an individual is taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom by authorities AND is subject to questioning, the privilege against self-incrimination is jeopardized. He must be warned prior to any questioning that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that, if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires.” After these warnings are given, the accused can waive these rights and speak with the police. Unless these warnings are waived, and the waiver is demonstrated by the prosecutor, no evidence obtained as a result of interrogation can be used against you.
To summarize, Miranda v. Arizona means the following: if you are questioned while in custody, and if the officer did not give Miranda warnings, statements made cannot be used against you. The officer’s failure to administer the Miranda warnings, however, does not result in the case against you being dismissed.
Now that we know what was held in Miranda v. Arizona, let’s discuss what your Miranda rights are. These rights include:
- The right to remain silent;
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law;
- You have the right to speak with an attorney and have your attorney present while you are questioned;
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning, if you wish; and
- If you give up your right to remain silent, and later wish to stop answering questions, no further questions may be asked.
What Does it Mean to Be in Custody?
While the circumstances will vary, this generally means that a reasonable person feels that he or she is not free to leave the presence of law enforcement. If you are in custody, you must be read your Miranda rights, and agree to waive those rights, before the police may ask you any questions.
Here is a common example of where a person is not in custody. Law enforcement pulls over a driver for speeding. The officer issues the person a ticket and then smells the odor of alcohol emanating from the person’s vehicle. The officer asks the person if they have been drinking. The person answers “yes, a couple of beers.” Since speeding is not an offense for which a person can be arrested generally, and the officer already issued the speeding ticket, the driver is not in “custody” for purposes of Miranda. Thus, the statement that the person was drinking is admissible against the person in court. If, however, the officer arrests the person for DUI/OVI, does not read the driver’s Miranda rights, and begins questioning the person, the statements made after the arrest would not be admissible because the person was in custody.
The key line of demarcation is whether you are in custody. A good rule of thumb is that when you are placed under arrest, you are in custody.
What Happens if the Person is in Custody and the Police Question Them Before Reading Miranda Rights?
If this occurs, your attorney will file what is known as a “motion to suppress” any incriminating statements you may have made to the police. In this motion, your attorney will be asking the court to rule that the prosecutor may not use any statements you made at trial.
If the case against you is weak, or there is very little evidence against you, the prosecutor may dismiss your case. However, a violation of your Miranda rights, by itself, will not result in a dismissal of your case. For example, if the police arrest you for DUI/OVI and you admit to drinking a couple of beers after being questioned by the police, those statements would be suppressed. However, if you submitted to field sobriety tests and a breathalyzer, the prosecutor would still have that evidence to prosecutor you with.
What if I Agreed to Answer Questions, But Now I Don’t Want To?
You cannot simply remain silent if you want law enforcement to cease questioning you. Instead, you must say, explicitly, “I wish to remain silent” or “I request legal counsel.” The police must immediately stop questioning you while you are in custody.
However, this does not last forever. Instead, the police can begin questioning you again after 14 days. Furthermore, if you are arrested for an offense, released, and then arrested again a few weeks later, your previous statement regarding wanting to remain silent does not apply.
Are There Any Exceptions to Miranda?
Yes. There is a little-used exception when there is a risk to public safety. This exception permits the police to take the person into custody and question them without reading their Miranda rights. The most recent high-profile example of this exception was the Boston Marathon bombing where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was apprehended and questioned by law enforcement.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your criminal offense case.